Wednesday, March 31, 2010

tomato madness

With rain predicted for today and tomorrow, I am happy to have finished setting out all six of the tomato plants I bought at last week's farmers market. They have joined two volunteer* plants I've been nurturing for weeks. This is madness, especially when you consider seven biodegradable pots planted with cherry tomato seeds -- the irresistible rainbow mix of colors

When I planted a plethora of tomato plants in Pennsylvania, Lori asked: "What are you going to do, make catsup?"** (She pronounced it CATS-up, as most of the natives did, and so I have spelled it that way in defiance of the spell checker.)

I have never seriously considered making catsup OR ketchup, but I do like to make tomato sauce and tomato soup, and so I have two Roma plants.

My two salad-size varieties are Bush Goliath and San Diego. In spite of a previous failure with San Diego tomatoes, I believe these will be reliable for everyday eating. Liz's uncle Jack was a fan of Pearson Improved, and I would plant it in his memory, but my farmers market plant purveyor does not carry this variety. BTW, Uncle Jack taught me to feed epsom salt to my tomato plants, and wikipedia suggests that the potatoes could use some too.

Hoping for a few whopping slicers, I have one each of Costoluto-Genovese and Brandywine. These are both new to me. Having often wondered what Italian cuisine could've been like before the importation of tomatoes from the New World, I'm looking forward to trying a variety developed in Italy. Brandywine is an American heirloom of Amish extraction.

It looks like my south-side chain-link fence will be pretty well smothered in tomatoes, so where will the rainbow of cherry varieties go? Probably in a narrow strip along the north-side driveway if we can contrive some sort of trellis or invest in some tomato cages. The driveway strip has always been devoted to ornamentals and has never required a fence, but this seems like a good year to make it more productive.

Because of our cool coastal nights, Californians will never be able to grow the prolific tomato plants we remember from the east and mid-west, but we never get tired of trying.
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*One of my Pennsylvania colleagues was proud of having pulled out ALL of his volunteer tomato plants before setting out seedlings in the spring. He couldn't bear to have a tomato on his table that he couldn't name.

**My maternal grandmother made wonderful catsup -- replete with "natural mellowing ingredients" long before Garrison Keillor developed the Ketchup Advisory Board -- and tomato juice too, in the cellar kitchen she used for big messy projects.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License